Art

Cinematic tribute

Margaret Elizabeth Noble  

Scots-Irish Margaret Elizabeth Noble became a disciple of Swami Vivekananda and left her family and friends to travel to Calcutta. Swami Vivekananda gave her the name ‘Nivedita’. Thereafter, Noble, who became ‘Sister Nivedita’, devoted her life to spiritualism and the cause of the needy.

Director Bijoy Bose fascinated by the life and works of Sister Nivedita, decided to make a film on her. He gained information on her life through various sources and material available at Ramakrishna Mission.

Casting was his biggest challenge for ‘Bhagini Nivedita.’ Bose settled for Arundhuti Devi who, he felt, would suit the role.The cast also included Asit Baran, Haradhan Bandopadhyay and Ajit Bandopadhyay.

Bose was compelled to make compromises in certain aspects of film making as it was a low-budget film. For instance, he could not afford to travel to England to shoot the early life of Sister Nivedita. So, he used stock shots of London. Fortunately, the editing was done well and the scenes never appeared out of context.

As Sister Nivedita, Arundhuti Devi was a picture of confidence, grace and dignity. In the scene where she walks the streets of Calcutta, asking for aid to help needy children, she was peerless. She moved the audience, when she asked this question “Sahajya Deben Na? (won’t you help me?)”. Satyajit Ray said that the portrayal of Nivedita was a performance of a lifetime by Arundhuti.

When the film released in 1962, ‘Bhagini Nivedita’ was a huge hit, despite the flaws in script and narration. The film won the National Award.

On the 150th birth anniversary of Sister Nivedita, the film remains a worthy documentation of her noble life.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 11:09:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/art/Cinematic-tribute/article16091694.ece

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